Farrakhan Omitted From Ali Service
CASCADE PRESS (CP), ATLANTA, GEORGIA Louis Farrakhan, the Honorable leader of the Nation of Islam is noticeably absent from the list of dignitaries slated to eulogized Muhammad Ali on Friday. According to family members, Ali died of septic shock three days ago in Phoenix, Arizona.
Today, a family spokesman confirmed the list of dignitaries selected to speak at the public service includes former President Bill Clinton, Entertainer Billy Crystal, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Sports Journalist Bryant Gumbel. There is some speculation that President Barrack Obama will speak, but no public announcement has been made at this date.
“I am not surprised that the Honorable Louis Farrakhan was not invited to eulogize Muhammad Ali. His wife was never a part of the Nation” Abdul Rahman said.
Rahman, now 85 years-old, says he and not Malcolm X led Ali to convert to Islam back in 1961 in Miami, Florida. Although Rahman is not surprised by the omission of Farrakhan, he does believe it is ironic that no member of the Nation of Islam will participate in what is being billed as an Interfaith Service.
“Ali was drawn to the Nation by a song he had heard by Farrakhan called A white Man’s Heaven is a Black Man’s Hell. He saw me selling Muhammad Speaks on a street corner in Miami. I was 29 years-old. It was early April 1961. He yelled across the street at me, ‘Hey why are we called Negroes, why are we deaf and dumb…,’ these were the words from Farrakhan’s song, so I hollered back at him, ‘hey you hip to the teachings.’ That day I became his big brother.”
Abdul Rahman not only advised Ali in his private life, but worked in Ali’s corner for all of his fights along with Angelo Dundee, and Drew “Bundini” Brown.
Wali Rahman, Abdul Rahman’s 39 year-old son says that Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, “always made Ali available to us. We went out to Phoenix and had a good visit with him”
He thinks that politics most likely played a part in the creation of the list of persons who will give the eulogies.
“Eight years ago Bill Clinton tried to get Barrack Obama to denounce Farrakhan, so I am not surprised that he is not on the same stage with Clinton,”Wali Rahman said.
The younger Rahman is working on a documentary on his father’s relationship with Ali titled, The Man Behind Muhammad Ali. The projected release date is October 2016.
Another school of thought is that Muhammad Ali, although a devote Muslim from 1961 until his transition last week, may not have been an active member of the Nation of Islam. In 1975, following his victory in The Thriller in Manila, Ali began his post-fight interview by paying homage to Wallace Deen Muhammad, who Ali said had replaced his father The Honorable Elijah Muhammad as the leader of the Nation of Islam. It was Ali’s first fight since the death of Elijah Muhammad.
A decade before Ali’s win over Joe Frazier in Manila, Wallace Deen Muhammad had split with his father over the suspension of Malcolm X, following comments Malcolm X made concerning the assassination of President John Kennedy.
Essentially, Wallace Deen Mohammed left the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan was able to consolidate power and continue to promulgate the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. The Wallace Deen Mohammed faction opted for the more traditional Islamic teachings that Malcolm X had begun to preach prior to his assassination February 21, 1965. Mohammed served three years in federal prison for refusing induction into the military, he led prayers at both of Bill Clinton’s inaugurals and ironically transitioned at the age of 74 years like Ali.
Friday’s interfaith service appears to be more in line with traditional Islamic doctrine than teachings from the Black Muslim sect led by Louis Farrakhan.